News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week January 26th to February 1st 2006. SAN PEDRO TUNNEL ROW
Protests promised if plans are not modified
By David Eade
AFTER OVER A DECADE OF DELAYS THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC WORKS HAS FINALLY GIVEN THE GO-AHEAD FOR A TUNNEL TO CARRY THE A-7 (OLD N-340) THROUGH SAN PEDRO DE ALCÁNTARA, THUS REMOVING ONE OF ANDALUCÍA’S MAJOR TRAFFIC BLACK SPOTS.
However the project is now facing two further conflicts, one involving Marbella Town Hall and the other a local action group that is dismayed by the plans for the scheme.
The Ministry of Public Works has now informed Marbella Town Hall that it should now go ahead with the expropriation of land necessary for the tunnel project to proceed. The ministry insists that the compensation should be paid to the land owners by the Town Hall. For its part, the Town Hall has stated that it does not have sufficient funds and therefore if the scheme is to proceed the central government must make the compensation payments.
ACTION GROUP WANTS ‘SCALEXTRIC’ OUT…
Also unhappy is the San Pedro association, ‘Plataforma por el Futuro’ that says the scheme is unacceptable in its present form. The general secretary of the local PSOE branch recently showed the association a copy of the plans for the overall project. This resulted in the group expressing its concern over the retention of the so-called overhead ‘Scalextric’ at Las Petunias crossroads at the Ronda road junction.
…AND ACCESSES WIDENED
The association is also unhappy that the scheme does not include widening of Nueva Andalucía, Benabolá and Cristamar accesses, nor the fact that service roads have not been included along the area. The plans would also seem to indicate that the promised ‘boulevard’ would not now be created above the tunnel.
The San Pedro pressure group had asked the ministry to provide an access road to the southern part of Guadalmina as well as crossroads at La Pepina. The secretary of ‘Plataforma por el Futuro’ says meetings are being arranged to see if the plans can be changed but has also warned that protests could be held if the project proceeds in the present format.
Two Britons die of gas poisoning in Coín
By Oliver McIntyre
TWO BRITISH MEN, A.J. AND C.H., AGED 40 TO 50, WERE FOUND DEAD IN THEIR COÍN HOME LAST WEEK, KILLED BY CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING FROM A MALFUNCTIONING PROPANE HEATER, ACCORDING TO AUTOPSY FINDINGS.
Although initial reports indicated that one of the men was injured and bloody, investigators say there were no signs of violence or forced entry into the home, located in the rural Valdeperales zone of Coín. Along with the men, three of their numerous dogs were found dead in the house. Reports following the investigation and autopsy indicated that the wounds on one of the men’s face may have been caused by bites from one of the dogs.
The bodies were found Wednesday night after police were notified by the British consulate in Málaga that family members were concerned because they had not been able to reach the men for several days.
CONSUL CALLED BY RELATIVES
“The [consulate] duty officer received a call from one of the relatives,” Consul Bruce McIntyre told Costa del Sol News. “We did what we normally do in these cases, which is to ask the local police to take a look.”
It took the police several hours to track down the house, which they finally did with the help of a map sent via e-mail by family members. The house is located up a series of tracks off the road that leads from Coín to the Monda-Marbella highway.
The police found the two bodies on the kitchen floor, one face down and one face up. They contacted the Guardia Civil to take over the investigation and autopsies were carried out to confirm the cause of the deaths. It is believed the men had been dead for about three days.
The two men lived together in the rented house and had been in the area for about a year and a half. They worked together at a restaurant at the Tívoli World amusement park in Benalmádena.
Dolores Vázquez sues State
By Oliver McIntyre
Dolores Vázquez, who was originally tried and convicted for the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof in Mijas and spend 17 months in jail before having the conviction overturned, has filed suit against the Ministry of Justice, asking for four million euros for miscarriage of justice.
In the initial filing of her suit, Sra Vázquez outlines a number of justifications for her claims for compensation. She points to time she spent in jail and the personal moral injury suffered, backed up by a psychological report. She cites injury to her image, demonstrated with press clippings showing the negative coverage she received throughout the case.
Further, Sra Vázquez charges that her wrongful conviction could have been avoided, referencing the fact that the Spanish police had received reports from British authorities about the sex-crime history of Tony Alexander King. King, already convicted for the murder of Sonia Carabantes in Coín, is currently charged with the Rocío Wanninkhof murder and is awaiting trial.
Sra Vázquez was arrested in September 2000, nearly a year after the Mijas murder. She was tried by jury in September 2001 and was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In February 2002, the Andalucía High Court overturned the trial on technical grounds and called for a retrial. Sra Vázquez was released from prison and it was while she awaited the retrial that Tony Alexander King was arrested for the murder of Sonia Carabantes in Coín and his DNA was connected to both the Coín and Mijas murder scenes. The charges against Sra Vázquez were subsequently dropped.
More Islamic terrorist arrests on Costa
By Oliver McIntyre and David Eade
The Guardia Civil’s antiterrorism squad last week arrested an alleged Islamic terrorist in Benalmádena. At the weekend they arrested another accused terrorist in Estepona, marking the fifth police action in little over a month against terror groups in Málaga province.
The man arrested in Estepona, Mohamed Anouar Zaoudi, was allegedly a member of a cell arrested on January 10 in Vilanova i la Geltrú in Barcelona as part of ‘Operation Chacal’. He was born in Tangier, Morocco, in 1977 and is said to have been employed by the leader of the Barcelona cell, Mohamed Mrabet Fahsi, who has been imprisoned on the orders of High Court Judge Fernando Andreu.
The man arrested in Benalmádena on Friday evening, whose identity was not revealed, may be related to a group busted in a police operation in December in which seven people were arrested. They were alleged to have carried out robberies and other common crimes on the Costa to raise money for the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (SGPC), which has suspected links to Al Qaeda.
A week and a half after that group was arrested, a separate police operation resulted in the detention of 16 alleged terrorist recruiters, 10 of them in the province of Málaga. Officials said the group was involved in the recruitment of suicide bombers to carry out attacks in Iraq.
Then on January 3 police arrested a 20-year-old Moroccan man in Torremolinos on an international arrest warrant issued by his home country. He was alleged to have connections to the SGPC and faced charges of criminal association for the perpetration of terrorist acts and serious attacks against public order.
Record year for costa tourism
By Oliver McIntyre
THE COSTA DEL SOL POSTED A RECORD TOURISM YEAR IN 2005, BREAKING THE NINE MILLION-VISITOR MARK FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, ACCORDING TO DATA RELEASED BY OFFICIALS LAST WEEK.
The figure marked a 6.1 per cent increase over 2004, inspiring Costa del Sol Tourism Board officials to declare a turnaround of the flagging trend the industry had been experiencing in recent years.
Overall tourist spending, at four billion euros, was up 480 million euros from 2004 figures. Tourists spent and average of 36.48 euros a day, up 5.5 per cent from 2004. The average length of stay also grew, to 11.99 days, compared to 11.79 days in 2004.
Essentially all of the tourism-industry markers were up, except for hotel occupancy rates (at 55.6 per cent, down 0.63 per cent from 2004) and cruise-ship arrivals (2.2 per cent fewer tourists arrived on cruises). Officials said the drop in hotel occupancy rates was the result of a 2.53 per cent increase in supply, with 3,208 beds added in 2005.The total number of people staying in hotels actually increased by 8.2 per cent, to 3,866,509.
Tourism Board President Juan Fraile was both pleased with the 2005 results and optimistic about continued growth. “I am happy with these figures, but not satisfied, because the Costa del Sol can always aspire to more,” he said. He estimated that in 2006 the number of tourists to the Costa will increase by another five to six per cent.
British Torrox man faces jail for fraud
By Dave Jamieson
A 66-year-old Briton who lives in Torrox is facing jail in the UK after he claimed Government health benefits while running a transport business.
Ronald Sargent formerly of Ely, Cardiff, was found guilty of receiving over £50,000 (almost 73,000 euros) by making false incapacity claims in respect to a “weak heart.” He was arrested at Bristol Airport after flying back to the UK to check on his company, Cameo Coaches, which runs a fleet of six buses providing services to schools throughout Cardiff.
The city’s Crown Court last week heard how Sargent continued to claim benefits after moving to live in Torrox and how his business also failed to pay VAT and income tax to the British exchequer. He was finally caught after seven years of defrauding the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) when a joint surveillance operation with HM Revenue and Customs was launched.
Investigators filmed Sargent driving his own buses on school runs and other contracts before fleeing Cardiff for his 200,000-euro villa in Torrox. He was subsequently charged with 13 counts of giving false information and obtaining benefits by deception.
Sargent admitted the charges and will be sentenced next month, but was told last Friday by Judge Gerrard Price that he “must expect” a custodial sentence.
The DWP says that benefit fraud in Britain costs more than £1.5 billion (2.2 billion euros) each year, adding that the public can help to make sure the cheats do not get away with it by calling its National Benefit Fraud Hotline in confidence on (UK) 0800 854400 or visiting targetingbenefitfraud.gov.uk. Officials say £53 million (over 77 million euros) was recovered from benefit fraudsters in the year to last October.
Million euro drought bill
Town halls seek new water sources and greater efficiency
By David Eade
ESTEPONA TOWN HALL SAYS IT HAS SO FAR SPENT ONE MILLION EUROS TO FIGHT THE EFFECTS OF THE DROUGHT IN THE MUNICIPALITY, WITH VARIOUS ACTIONS AND EMERGENCY WORKS TO LIMIT WATER CONSUMPTION AND GUARANTEE SUPPLIES.
The councillor for Services, José Ignacio Crespo, stated that work had been carried out to connect new water sources at Nueva Atalaya, La Cala and Arroyo Judo to the existing municipal deposits. These three wells are now providing 60 litres of water per second, sufficient to meet the needs of between 9,000 and 10,000 people. Sr Crespo added that the municipality’s own water resources now meet 15 per cent of local needs.
Around half the million euros has been spent on improving the drinking water supply to Bel Air, Costalita, Cancelada and Benamara as well as creating new deposits in Bel Air and El Paraíso, all urbanisations with a high percentage of foreign residents. The savings measures implemented by the Town Hall are also bearing fruit and around two million litres of water are being saved a day thanks to the cooperation of local people, said officials.
The search for new sources of water is also on in Fuengirola, where Mayor Esperanza Oña has ordered a series of initiatives to combat the drought. Amongst these is drilling to find new deposits in various areas of the municipality as well as seeking to use the water of the arroyos Zaragoza and Las Presas.
Meanwhile, the water desalination plant in Marbella has been working around the clock since July. According to officials, the eight production lines at the plant have produced 5.1 cubic hectometres of drinking water between July and the end of December.
Juan Cañete, the director of Acosol, which operates the desalination plant for the local town halls, stated that the output only provided a third of the water required by the local population. He stressed the need for people to still limit their use of water and pointed out that La Concepción reservoir only had 8.4 cubic hectometres of reserves, around 14.9 per cent of its capacity.
British students study Nerja
NEWS Staff Reporter
A group of students from London’s Royal Holloway University is in Nerja this week performing field studies that will be shared with the Town Hall. It is an annual programme, launched in 2000 with an agreement between the university and the Town Hall, in which students come each January to study and analyse a wide range of issues in the town, from social, cultural and physical geography to tourism, agriculture and town planning.
This year, at the request of the Detunda de Maro youth association, the group is focussing its work in the Maro area. On Saturday the students are scheduled to participate in a multicultural get-together with the association at the Municipal Multipurpose Centre in Maro.
Jack Nicklaus to design Valderrama’s second golf
By David Eade
Golfing legend, Jack Nicklaus, rated by many as the sport’s finest player in the last century, recently visited the Valderrama golf course in Sotogrande. He was the guest of the course’s president, Jaime Ortiz Patiño, and his son, Felipe Ortiz, who is the secretary of what is probably mainland Europe’s best golf circuit.
Nicklaus, known in his golfing days, as the ‘Golden Bear’ was in Sotogrande to tie-up an agreement whereby his aptly named company, Golden Bear International, would construct the second course at Valderrama.
Jack Nicklaus is not only the most successful golfer in the modern game but he is also one of the most highly rated course designers in the world. Indeed in 1993 he received an award for the quality of the various courses he has created.
The master designer’s first golf course project in Andalucía was the Club Montecastillo that has been the venue for the Volvo Masters in years when the Valderrama course was not able to host the event. The existing Valderrama course was designed by Robert Trent Jones and in recent years has seen the Volvo Masters, World Championships and 1997 Ryder Cup grace its fairways.
Nerja to stabilise dangerous cliffs
News Staff Reporter
Nerja Town Hall has approved a project to stabilise cliffs along Burriana Beach. A specialist technical firm was called in falling rock falls last year which caused material damage and left the cliffs in a dangerous condition. Engineers from CEMOSA have developed a plan to rectify the problem and councillors have approved expenditure of 30,000 euros to put it into practice. Work is to start very shortly.
Tons of rocks and stones falling onto the road behind Burriana Beach one Tuesday lunchtime last June, while another more serious fall of boulders onto the same road followed during a rainy October night. This left some huge boulders so perilously poised that part of the road still remains closed. Miraculously, no-one was injured in either incident although parked cars were damaged and one rock smashed the glass entrance doors of a residential block. Properties on the cliff top also lost part of their gardens and owners have lived with the fear of further landslips.
Burriana is the biggest and most important of Nerja’s beaches, and cliffs between it and the town centre have recently been the subject of similar stabilisation work. A footpath at their base has been closed for several years for safety reasons. Last week, the Government authorised Nerja to obtain five plots of land on the cliff tops which overlook El Salón, Calahonda, Carabeo and Carabeillo beaches.
Diplomatic row looms over HMS Sussex wreck
By David Eade
AS REPORTED IN LAST WEEK’S COSTA DEL SOL NEWS THE US-OWNED EXPLORATION VESSEL ‘ODYSSEY EXPLORER’ HAS BEEN SUBJECTED TO HARASSMENT BY GUARDIA CIVIL PATROLS AS IT UNDERTOOK WORK ON THE SUNKEN TREASURE SHIP HMS SUSSEX.
These acts have now escalated to such a level that the vessel sought shelter in Gibraltar and was last week escorted there by the Gibraltar Squadron and Gibraltar Services Police.
Efforts are now underway in diplomatic circles to try and prevent a fully blown row between Spain, Britain and the USA. Indeed, although the ‘Odyssey Explorer’ is working on a British government owned wreck it is the US Embassy that is taking the lead in defence of the US company although its British counterpart is also fully involved.
The Sussex is an English warship that sank in 1694 with a cargo of gold that could now be worth up to $1.2 billion. An international convention, to which Spain is a signatory, recognises the original flag carrier of a wreck as the rightful owner. Indeed it is in Spain’s interests to uphold the convention as it is estimated it owns 4,000 wrecks around the world, many of which too will have valuable treasure onboard.
REGIONAL GOVERNMENT SAYS ‘NO’
The fly in the ointment seems not to be Madrid but Sevilla as recently the regional government’s culture ministry stated that the US company did not have its permission to search for the wreck. Since then the Andalucía president, Manuel Chaves, has warned that the regional body would not allow the site to be “ransacked”.
The exploration company Odyssey has an exclusive licensing agreement with the British government to salvage the HMS Sussex and its cargo. It insists that the governments in both Madrid and London have cleared the project and are kept fully briefed on progress. It has agreed to allow an archaeologist appointed by the Andalucía government to be on board the ‘Odyssey Explorer’ to monitor the recovery work.
Last week, Odyssey’s lawyer in Spain, José Luis Goñi, appeared before La Línea court to explain the company’s position. Sr Goñi, a maritime law expert, stated that no permission was needed from the Spanish authorities, and certainly not the Andalucía government, as HMS Sussex belongs to the British government under international law. He also pointed out that the wreck was in international waters.
As a side issue a sea borne protest organised by environmental group ‘Verdemar’ took to the waters off Gibraltar. Around 20 vessels took part to demand the ‘Odyssey Explorer’s’ treasure hunters leave local waters to cries of ‘Fuera el cazatesoros’ (‘Out with the treasure hunters’).
ODYSSEY TO MOVE ON
As the CDSN went to press it was being suggested that Odyssey may stop working on HMS Sussex and move on to another project in the Mediterranean. There has been no confirmation from the company but whilst it insists that it has the full approval of the British and Spanish governments Odyssey has been shocked by the hostility towards its operations in southern Spain. Hence its possible decision to let the waters calm down before continuing with the project.
USA refuses to grant aircraft sales licences
Protests follow American government’s decision
By David Eade
THERE HAVE BEEN ANGRY PROTESTS AT THE FOUR EADS-CASA FACTORIES IN ANDALUCÍA.
The protests were sparked by the U.S. government’s decision not to grant sales licences to the Spanish government for twelve military planes that have been commissioned by Venezuela.
These aircraft are part of an agreement with Venezuela, which also includes the sale of eight ships that are to be constructed in the Bay of Cádiz shipyards. The CC.OO union claims the USA is being unjust because the planes have only ‘minimal’ American components and their engines are Canadian. It believes the decision will affect the whole Spanish aircraft industry that employs 25,000 people.
The union also accuses the US government of trying to exact revenge on Venezuela for not wanting to join the South American Free Trade Organisation. It says the American authorities do not have the right to use Spain as part of their manipulations.
The Venezuelan agreement is important for the Bay of Cádiz shipyards, as construction of the eight ships would provide 4.2 million hours of work between this year and 2012, when they are due to be delivered.
Law cracks down on juvenile delinquents
Minors committing crimes face stiffer sentences
By Oliver McIntyre
SPAIN’S COUNCIL OF MINISTERS LAST WEEK APPROVED NEW REFORMS TO THE JUVENILE CRIME LAW, STIFFENING SENTENCES, PROVIDING NEW PROTECTIONS FOR VICTIMS OF SCHOOLYARD BULLYING AND INCREASING PENALTIES FOR GANG ACTIVITIES.
Maximum sentences for serious and violent crimes have been lengthened by a year. Minors aged between 14 and 16 who commit crimes involving violence, threats or serious danger to others can now face up to three years in a juvenile detention centre. For those between the ages of 16 and 18, the sentence can be up to six years. Murder, rape or terrorist acts carry sentences of up to five or eight years, depending on the age of the juvenile offender, and can be extended to 10 years for those with a previous criminal record.
Members of gangs, like the Latin Kings or the Ñetas, which have been an increasing problem for authorities in large cities like Madrid and are beginning to find their way to other parts of the country, will receive especially stiff sentencing. They can be sentenced to up to six years for offences considered serious but falling short of murder, rape or violent robbery.
The length of time juveniles can be held before trial has been increased from three months to six months, with the possibility of a three-month extension in exceptional cases. Also, the statute of limitations on juvenile crimes has been lengthened from three months to six months.
For the first time ever, the law officially recognises schoolyard bullying as a specific type of crime. It allows judges to issue restraining orders to keep aggressors away from their victims, and provides for court-ordered forced transfer to another school.
PROTECTION FOR VICTIMS
The reforms to the law also seek to protect juvenile victims of sexual crimes. They must now always give their testimony without the accused being present, a measure that before was left to the judge’s discretion.
Under the reformed law, judges are to decide whether or not a juvenile detainee is transferred to a regular prison after turning 18, depending on the nature of the crimes and the inmate’s behaviour during the time in juvenile detention.
Agreement reached on Cataluña statute
NEWS Staff Reporter
Government officials last weekend reached an historic agreement with Catalan leaders on the region’s statute of autonomy, or ‘Estatut’. The long-controversial debate over the self-rule statute for Cataluña ended in an agreement between Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and leaders of the region’s Convergencia i Unió party. The other major Catalan nationalist party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, which is a member of the ruling coalition in the region, did not sign on to the agreement, but its passage through parliament in the coming weeks is considered highly likely.
The main points of contention in the new Estatut, which replaces the existing one established in 1979, were the Catalans’ desire to be considered a nation and to gain more financial and political independence. The agreement provides for the term ‘nation’ to be used in the statute’s preamble, though in the text of the statute itself Catalan will be referred to as “a nationality within Spain.” It establishes an even sharing between the central government and the Catalan regional government of income tax and VAT revenues from the region.
Spain’s opposition Partido Popular spoke out against the agreement, saying it threatens to break the country apart, especially if it heralds similar concessions to other regions, including the problematic País Vasco. Meanwhile, some political parties in Cataluña feel the agreement does not go far enough in recognising the region as a nation.
The long debate over the Cataluña statute has been wrought with tension. Several weeks ago it resulted in the sacking of an army general who suggested the armed forces could intervene if Cataluña was seen to be overstepping constitutional boundaries. Another army captain warned of discontent in the military. The incidents, though downplayed by officials, played to many as a haunting spectre of the type of military coups that have plagued Spain’s past.
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